Report of our ninth annual pilgrimage to Greece for the annual open days at several air bases throughout the country in November 2016.
In the early hours of Friday 4 November 2016, 22 participants gathered at the familiar red white pillar at the airport to go to Greece again, an annual event which is still met with great enthusiasm. After a successful flight to Athens we had to wait for the two final companions, and when they had arrived we could pick up our three rental vans. On the way to the first hotel there was still time to photograph some wrecks & relics (F-104G and two T-33As). we arrived in Larissa at the beginning of the evening. After check in at the hotel we enjoyed some good food and went to bed early because it had been a long day
Saturday 5 November started with a visit to Larissa AB. We were the first to arrive at the base and because of that we could make some decent pictures, including two beautiful RF-4Es. The sun was in a great spot for pictures. One of our group had addressed the right person and arranged for our group to visit the dump area. After a sweep of the platform we saw nobody else of our group and drove our cars behind our guide to and from the storage area. Two of the group members, who were in a hangar and not seen by us, were brought to the dump by our Greek hosts. Fortunately, they were able to join the main force. This storage tour started with some preserved aircraft and then the RF-4Es in dispersals and later F-4E/RF-4Es and F-5s on the flight line. Brilliant! Even the sun played along. We then stopped on several occasions to photograph several F-5s, F-104 and T-33s, followed by the memorial park. The position of the sun had improved on the static aircraft so we returned there and some of us also wanted to spend money on patches and beautiful F-4 polo shirts. On the way back to the gate a few preserved aircraft were photographed, no problem. After this successful visit we were on our way to the next field; Nea Anchialos. After about an hour we arrived here and first photographed a civilian Mil Mi-26 on the civilian airport and later reported to the military gate. We had to wait for security and they brought us to the parking lot where we could graph some preserved aircraft. Then on to the static where a lot was possible so that we could capture most aircraft ‘clean’ and from a high vantage point (stairs). We were even allowed to photograph the AB-204. On the way back, four preserved fighters were added to the memory card and we had everything we had hoped for. What a day! We left at the end of the afternoon and no W&R were visited today because we still had quite a long drive to our hotel in Thiva ahead of us.
On Sunday (6 November) we started at Tanagra, followed by the museum at Dekelia-Tatoi and finally a visit to Elefsis AB, all near the capital Athens. As said the day started with Tanagra. We were right on time and had to wait until nine o’clock. From a number of Maltese spotters we heard that an Egyptian F-16C was display in the static at Andravida. We decided not to change our itinerary and just wait a day (for our visit to Andravida). There were not many visiting aircraft with the exception of two F-16s. A number of aircraft could be photographed beautifully and the ground crew cooperated again. After everyone had finished we packed the cars and headed for the museum of Dekelia-Tatoi. Here we arrived around eleven o’clock, but because there was a ceremony in progress on the base we had to wait until 12:00 pm. So we had a coffee and took the opportunity to contact our contact/owner of Athenian Aviators Collection for an appointment (which was 13.00). At exactly 12:00 we were on base and then an hour is too short for those of us who had never been here before. Compared to previous years, not much had changed except for the arrival of the Olympos A-7E and a number of aircraft in front of the hangar had a new coat of paint. The dump could unfortunately not be visited. At the agreed time we met with our guide for the Athenian Aviators Collection, located on the other side of the field. After the necessary formalities we followed him on the field. In the hangar were eight aircraft including a nice A-26, An-2, an original Po-2 and PBY-5 Catalina. All these are airworthy. After our visit we said goodbye, very satisfied, and headed for our final destination for today, Elefsis. On the ramp there were some nice static aircraft, including one ERJ-145H AEW&C. Another ERJ-135 and the Gulfstream V were parked near the static area. With the cooperation of the crew and ‘security’ people we could clear some of the ribbons and stairs and capture the aircraft beautifully. Also, there was a Hercules and a C-27J, CL-215 and Cougar helicopter. After we were done we reported at the gate and asked if we were allowed to photograph the heritage park, no problem. Unfortunately, the sun had already gone home, but there was still enough light. At that stage a CL-215 departed and two more returned. What a beautiful sound! The deputy commander of Elefsis joined our group for a chat and was honoured by our visit. We had to say goodbye as we had a long drive to our hotel in Kalamata. Again a great day!
On Day 4, Monday 7 November, we woke up in Kalamata. Unfortunately the weather was slightly less than the previous two days, cloudy but dry. We enjoyed breakfast without being in a hurry, since our hotel was close to the airport of Kalamata. After handing in our passports at the gate we had to wait. Meanwhile, there were many buses with schoolchildren. After a tactical move, we were suddenly in front of these buses and we were the first to visit the platform. There were not too many aircraft on display; the well-known T-6A, T-2E and a visiting F-16C of Araxos. In the hangar were two more T-6As, and two T-2s. Unfortunately we could (again) not photograph the T-2 Buckeyes parked on the flight line. After an hour we had seen enough and it was time for the next base, Andravida. The outward journey went through the smaller roads from which we could enjoy the beautiful scenery. Around noon we arrived at Andravida and we could enter the airport without any formalities. Luckily we knew the way to the platform. Soon we saw the Egyptian F-16C and all of us were very happy with that one. This aircraft was totally free of clutter as many other visitors were near the Phantoms. Eventually shooting went (reasonably) went of all the aircraft. On display were two F-4E AUP, an F-16C, Mirage 2000C and the Egyptian. We had asked one of the F-4 pilots to take a group picture. When we posed as ‘Walk like an Egyptian’ he did not know how to act… weird guys these photographers… but we did have fun! After saying goodbye we went to Araxos, about half an hour from Andravida. Again we were on time. Outside on the platform were a TA-7C, F-4E AUP of Andravida and two F-16Cs. Inside were an F-16C and D, the C had been a long time resident of Edwards AFB. Nice! Some of our group met some Greek friends (including from the Tiger Meet in Spain), so we could arrange to make clean shots of the aircraft. Icing on the cake was that we were given the opportunity to drive to the A-7 storage with our buses! First we passed the dumped F-104 Starfighters (here we were not allowed to get out of the vans, but could photograph from the car) and then a part of the storage of the A-7s. Here we were allowed to get off and luckily we were given the opportunity to photograph the A-7s. Again, like Larissa, a nice bonus to the visit. After saying goodbye to our supervisor we had a relaxing drive to our hotel. We arrived at this beautiful seaside hotel even during daylight. We enjoyed a meal together and could look back at a successful day.
Tuesday 8 November, the last day of our tour. After a delicious and leisurely breakfast we went to Tanagra. Unfortunately the sun had not shown itself yet. Along the way we visited the channel of Carinthia where a cruise ship passed through at that time. It’s very impressive to witness this. We arrived at Tanagra to photograph the static and a few were given the opportunity to photograph the stored Mirage F1CGs. Unfortunately, not the entire group could do this, but every year opportunities are improving and that is a positive thing. After about an hour we were back to our cars and on the way to the museum on Dekelia-Tatoi (since last Sunday the time there was a little too short for some). Fortunately, the sun was shining again and we could even shoot the dump, from a distance. After this visit we dropped of two companions at their hotel at the airport, the cars were returned and we checked in for our flight to Schiphol. The flight went well and at 23:15 we arrived back at Schiphol, in accordance with the schedule. Everybody could look back at a successful trip during which there were more opportunities than expected. Also the weather was great. Greece is still a very nice destination and that explains why many people join us on this 4Aviation tour every year. 2017 here we come!